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Survey: Retailers lack IT infrastructure for in-store improvements

IT barriers are preventing retailers from making critical improvements to increase the in-store experience and drive long-term customer loyalty.

That's according to a report by Zynstra, in which less than one-third of retailers in the U.K. and U.S. said their IT infrastructure was fully able to support plans to improve the in-store customer experience. A further 20% said they had to delay or reject a roll out of new in-store applications as a result of IT limitations, costs or concern.

In addition, 98% of retailers said they would roll out new applications and services it if was easier to do so. The research, conducted on behalf of Zynstra by independent survey specialist Censuswide, polled 308 retail IT decision makers in the US and UK.

Budget was cited as the biggest (48%) when it came to rolling out new applications and services. In addition, 35% of retailers said they found delivering consistency of in-store versus online experience difficult, while 35% also identified the lack of local store IT skills as an issue.
A further challenge was that less than half of respondents (49%) said they were easily able to make changes and upgrades across all branches. And 32% said they actually managed each store as a separate IT installation.

“In the retail space, particularly the retail store, IT must play a critical role, not only improving the efficiency of operations, but also enabling innovation and application roll out to drive enhanced customer experiences," said Nick East, CEO, Zynstra. "What this research has revealed is that IT decision makers have low confidence when it comes to the ability of their current infrastructure to actually fulfill this role."

Despite these challenges, attitudes toward preparedness for seasonal events like Black Friday and Christmas were more positive. 43% felt they were very prepared when it came to the roll out of seasonal promotions, while 39% felt very prepared to deal with the roll out of customer experience applications during this time.

Despite the challenges, retail IT decision makers are going the extra mile to support customer experience improvement initiatives and respond to seasonal demands, according to East.

"But best efforts and squeezing the last drops of performance out of existing infrastructure is no longer good enough," he said. "With the customer experience, and particularly the in-store customer experience, fast becoming the key competitive differentiator, it is clear that retailers need a more effective way for IT to support improvement initiatives."
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